By Briley Gargis
WARSAW – Warsaw Municipal Airport continues to fly on despite the worldwide pandemic, but it is quieter these days.
Warsaw has been home to a great general aviation community. Bringing a familiar hum of airplanes overhead. During these times, however, that hum has become less frequent and begs the question. What is going on at the airport during the COVID-19 outbreak?
The pandemic has obviously closed much of what is the normal everyday air traffic. Large airports have seen fewer flights, fewer people and most importantly fewer costs.
One of the biggest stories being seen around the nation is how large airlines are experiencing a huge impact. International airports have turned into what sometimes look like ghost towns. And ridership is at an all-time low, which has had a financial impact on these airlines as well.
This is being seen in Warsaw, and WMA Manager Nick King answered a few questions from InkFreeNews.
“Warsaw Municipal Airport normally averages between 40 and 50 operations per day, but we are well below that. Many days we do not even see more than five,” King said.
Although people have heard less frequent air activity, that isn’t stopping general aviation pilots from being able to enjoy the skies altogether. With an airport the size of Warsaw, the types of aircraft are generally smaller, and those who fly them are usually by themselves or carry very few people.
“General aviation is a great way to be socially distant. Most of the flights we have seen over the past eight weeks have been general aviation pilots. Because so many places have shut down, pilots are going out and flying, just to keep their skills sharp, and have some fun while doing so,” said King.
Warsaw Airport is part of the national transportation grid which means that closing is not an option. The airport is vital for traffic that isn’t just local.
“We have continued to offer service to those who have flown in and out of our airport. We have worked hard to implement several new safety procedures. These include single-use fueling gloves, masks, social distancing practices and closing the terminal building to all non-essential foot traffic,” King added.
“Because we could potentially see pilots or passengers from anywhere in the USA, we sanitize the building at least two times per shift, and are continuing to follow CDC and industry-specific best practices. This will not only keep our staff, but our community as safe as we possibly can,” King said.
Another large impact the coronavirus has had is on gas prices. Many people have seen the price of fuel plummet nationwide at gas stations, with a small increase recently. This is apparent in the aviation industry as well due to a variety of causes.
“Part of the reason for our lower fuel prices is due to the increased production of fuels in a fuel war between Saudi Arabia and Russia. Both countries were producing excess oil which drove the price of crude down exponentially. This decreased our cost of Jet-A and Aviation 100LL to prices not seen in over a decade,” King said.
Jet-A fuel is what powers gas turbine engines. A turbine engine is used in most large airlines and are usually large in size. Most commonly they are used in the 737 airliner and can be seen on some smaller charter jets and private jets.
Aviation 100LL, otherwise known as AvGas, is used in most piston engine powered airplanes. It is similar to the gas that is put into motor vehicles — in fact some light aircraft use normal motor vehicle gas.
More due to what impact COVID-19 has had is the “decreased usage of aviation fuels industry-wide. With several commercial flights being canceled, the daily usage of aviation fuels decreased, and the national stockpile of the same fuels increased.”
This subsequently has brought the price lower.
“Last summer, Aviation 100LL was selling between $5.25 and $8.50 per gallon, depending on where you were in the country. We averaged $5.50-$5.75 locally. Our current Aviation 100LL price is $3.68 per gallon. Our Jet-A prices locally are currently $3.77 per gallon, vs. $4.75-$5.50 last summer. Jet-A is down nationwide roughly 63% vs. one year ago,” King said.
He provided a great website to view current fuel statistics.
King hopes that as the summer continues, and more information is released about Covid-19, Warsaw Municipal Airport can start to get back to a more normal operation.